Toy Soldiers

The first night after Mary died, Dean was scared. Despite the gun that his father had under the pillow, despite the intricate traps his father placed in the motel room, despite the strong, ex-marine arm that held him, Dean was scared. The gun, the traps, the arm were all hard and cold.

The first time his father killed an evil thing, Dean was 5. That night, his father refilled the salt circles around the beds, redrew the symbols that he struggled to pronounce, and realigned the guns on their bed. But Dean was scared, scared despite the guns, the salt, the symbols.

So he hopped on the floor and looked across toward Sam's small bed. He jumped from one foot to the other, trying to decide if he should risk disobeying his father's direct order to stay inside his "circle." A tree branch dragged across a window and its shadow shook hands with the paper clips on the wall. Dean squinted his eyes, leapt over the magic circle, and sprinted toward Sam's bed. When he slipped into the soft blanket, Dean watched Sam's closed lids flutter, watched Sam's curled fingers twitch, watched Sam's body rise and fall sweetly to the rhythm of his heart. Dean made sure every part of his own body was beneath the fragile blanket before he draped his arm across Sam's small body, soft and warm. This was the first time since the night Mary died that Dean felt warm, felt safe, and felt guilty.

The first time his father left Sam and him alone, Dean was 8. It was too dangerous for Sammy, his father said. He knew Dean will keep him safe. A "yes, sir" slipped out of his mouth automatically before Dean could tell his father it was Sam who kept him safe.

So it was back to the guns and the traps and the symbols. And with a kiss on Sam's cheek, a small pat on his 8-year-old back, a dull thump of the apartment door, his father left.

Dean tried to entertain Sam for two hours, but Sam cried and cried. He didn't want to be in the circle anymore, Sam blubbered, he wanted the juju fish in the fridge. Too bad, Dean muttered, he wasn't gonna step out of this circle; eat the bananas instead, lots of potassium.

Sam said he didn't care; he'll go out and get the fish himself if he was scared. Dean got angry. If you step out of this circle I'm gonna burn all your Dr. Seuss books. Sam grew quiet and fell back on the pillow, his round back facing Dean defiantly and accusingly. Dean felt guilty for a moment, guilty because the only reason why he wouldn't let Sam go was because hewas scared of being alone. Fucking shitty racy bastard coward, Dean thought up all the bad words he knew. Soldiers don't get scared, he whispered to the toy legionnaire in his hand.

When Dean awoke he knew something was wrong. His hands were clammy and his back was cold. He turned around, but instead of Sam's roly-poly shoulders still air mocked him. Dean was horribly afraid. But this time it was a different afraid. He jumped from one foot to the other. The darkness was silent and the shadows were sinister. He didn't want to run out of the circle but he had to find Sam. So he squinted his eyes and broke into a run. He searched everywhere and then remembered the juju fish.

The asphalt gun in his hands, he kicked the door open with his foot awkwardly. Next to the opened fridge door was Sam, shoving juju fish into his little mouth.

Sam asked if Dean was angry in him when they returned to the circle. Sam still had trouble with words sometimes despite his love for reading and Dean barked, it's "on" you dummy, before giving the cold shoulder. Dean I'm sorry, Sam said as he climbed over Dean's shoulder. You can have a juju fish if you want. Dean didn't say anything but took the fish from Sam's dimpled hand. And when the blanket was too small to cover the both of them, Dean tucked Sam in completely before poking a leg and arm in the covers. Dean is left half warm and half cold, but he decides that was okay as long as the warmth Sam feels is whole.